BMCR 2020.10.03

Das Xanthostal Lykiens in archaisch-klassischer Zeit

, Das Xanthostal Lykiens in archaisch-klassischer Zeit. Eine archäologisch-historische Bestandsaufnahme. Die hellenistische Polis als Lebensform, Band 10. Göttingen: Verlag Antike, 2019. 280 p. ISBN 9783946317593. $125.00.

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

Lycia is one of the most important provinces in Anatolia, and the valley of the river Xanthos in central Lycia is one of its most important parts. Usually the numerous cities of Lycia are treated as separate units or the entire province is dealt with all together; the choice here to examine a specific region is new. The main cities situated along the river valley are Patara, Xanthos, Pinara and Tlos.

The contents of the volume consist of an introduction, two very long chapters and five shorter ones. They are rather diverse and do not quite correspond to the title of the book, i.e., the valley in the Archaic and Classical period. The introduction that is the editor Martin Zimmermann’s contribution to the volume is mainly concerned with the research history of the area, where many scholars had been busy already from the middle of the 19th century. Excavations have taken place in Xanthos and Letoon from the middle of the 20th century and in some other places only in recent years.

The first main chapter is Andreas Thomsen’s archaeological survey of the Xanthos valley. It is a thorough account of the more than twenty sites in the area, a few of them still unpublished and their ancient names unknown. The chapter starts with a long introduction to the history of the area and the situation and size of the sites, followed by a survey of fortifications, houses, temples and tombs, lavishly illustrated with photos, plans and maps. Because the scope is limited to the Archaic and Classical periods, theatres, stadia and other later buildings are not included. The presentation of the different sites (in alphabetic order) includes discussion of coinage, which is important in many of the towns.

The other substantial chapter is Birgit Christiansen’s study, which is not confined to the Xanthos valley but also includes a few cases from Telmessos and Levissi in western Lycia, Antiphellos in central Lycia, and Limyra, Rhodiapolis and Tyberissos in eastern Lycia. Many tomb inscriptions in Lycia give the name of the owner of the tomb and of the members of his family, and several mention a prohibition against others using the tomb. Here a very special category of tomb inscriptions is dealt with: the payment of a sum called ada to a committee or institution called miñti, a procedure whose meaning has been much discussed. First it was assumed to be a fine for violating or abusing the tomb; more recently the possibility of legal fees in connection with the use and upkeep of the tomb has been suggested. The composition of the miñti and its relation with society and the owner of the tomb has been discussed, and of course it cannot be taken for granted that the conditions are the same in every town and period.

The article gives a very thorough and detailed catalogue of the more than fifty inscriptions that are relevant to this issue (a few have also a Greek version of the text). Many cases are accompanied by a thorough consideration of the versions of earlier scholars and discussion for and against different theories. This voluminous analysis could have been published as an independent monograph instead of being hidden as a chapter in a volume whose title hardly gives a hint of the existence of the chapter.

The volume contains also another article by B. Christiansen, much shorter but equally intriguing. It deals with a very small preserved portion of a bilingual inscription on a fragment of a limestone block found in 2010 in the stadion of Tlos, probably part of a statue base. It consists of only a few fragmentary lines, but the letter forms provide much material for discussion. So does the content of the lines, since while it seems clear that the Tloans, a person called Pteuma, and the erection (of a statue) are mentioned, it is uncertain whether the Tloans erected a statue for him or he erected a statue by order of the Tloans.

Among the other shorter articles are two by Anke Rondholz. The first deals with the case when the inhabitants of Xanthos committed collective suicide rather than capitulate when Brutus captured the city in 43/42 BC. Appianus who narrated the event (as do other authors), reports that the Xanthians had done this twice before, when Harpagos conquered the city during the Persian invasion and when Alexander the Great invaded Asia Minor. Similar cases of suicide of an entire population occurred several times in antiquity and are listed in the chapter; the positive and negative views of the referents are discussed.

The second article treats the hero Sarpedon, the Harpy monument in Xanthos, and the possibility of combining them. Sarpedon, who was the commander of the Lycians in the Trojan war and was killed by Patroclus, was celebrated with games in Xanthos and had a sanctuary there. Since its discovery, the function of the so-called Harpy monument and the interpretation of part of the rich relief decoration have been extensively discussed. The human-headed birds carrying persons have been interpreted as harpies or sirens. Dead warriors who are carried away in art can in many cases be interpreted as Memnon or Sarpedon, and the author suggests that the Harpy monument may be a cenotaph to Sarpedon built by the dynast Kybernis, who was the commander of the Lycians in Xerxes’s expedition to Greece.

Unfortunately, there is something of a mess in a few of the illustration references. On pp. 122-123 the captions of the southern and eastern sides have been reversed, and the reference on p. 123 might give the impression that Abb. 6 shows the northern side instead of the southern one. On pp. 132-134 the references to Abb. 16-17 and 18-19 should in fact be 17-18 and 18-19, and despite the reference to two amphoras, the same amphora is illustrated twice; indeed the same photo is used, in spite of what the captions say.

An article by Laurence Cavalier and Jacques des Courtils treats a site called Asarcık. This site, located 8 km from Xanthos, had not been studied before and was the object of an exploration in 2009-2010 that unfortunately could not be continued. Although it appears in Thomsen’s survey, it is here treated much more thoroughly. The remnants consist of fortification walls, a settlement, funerary monuments, a sanctuary or small temple, two churches, and several inscriptions. Some of the material is post-Classical, and the site evidently lived on into the Byzantine period. A few suggestions concerning the remnants by other scholars are also criticized.

The same site is treated by Patrick Baker and Gaétan Thériault, who focus on the temple mentioned in the previous article. Their work is based on a survey performed in 2009 and 2010 which yielded a number of Greek inscriptions, two of which were previously published with suggestions that are criticized here. They consist of a statue base dedicated to Marcus Aurelius Tlepolemos to be erected near the temple of Phoibos and a fragmentary dedication, probably to Basileus Phoibos by the same Tlepolemos. Two rectangular blocks are inscribed on three sides and originally stood against a wall. The text concerns feasts with exhaustive lists of participants in an oinoposia, thoroughly commented upon but only with a very small part rendered.

The book has an index that comprises only the content of Christiansen’s articles and not the rest of the book. It lists textual sources, words, names of gods and persons, not only in Lycian and Greek but also Hittite and other languages.

Authors and Titles

Martin Zimmermann, “Poleis, Territorien und Heiligtümer im lykischen Xanthostal. Forschungsgeschichte und Perspektiven” (pp. 7–11)
Andreas Thomsen, “Das Xanthostal in archaisch-klassischer Zeit. Eine archäologische Bestandsaufnahme” (pp. 12–107)
Anke Rondholz, “Die Stadt als Grab — Der Massenselbstmord von Xanthos vor dem Hintergrund historiographischer Topik” (pp. 108–118)
Anke Rondholz, “Something to do with Sarpedon? Eine Neuinterpretation des Harpyienmonuments in Xanthos” (pp. 119–140)
Laurence Cavalier and Jacques des Courtils, “Une komè dans le territoire de Xanthos” (pp. 141–153)
Patrick Baker and Gaétan Thériault, “Un temple d’Apollon Phoibos dans la kômè de Xanthos. Au sujet de quelques inscriptions découvertes à Aklar-Asarcık” (pp. 154–165)
Birgit Christiansen, “Grave matters. Legal provisions for a proper final rest in Classical Lycia” (pp. 166–261)
Birgit Christiansen, “Eine neue lykisch-griechische Bilingue aus Tlos: Eine Dedikation oder Ehreninschrift der Polis von Tlos?” (pp. 262–272)
Indices (pp. 273–276)